Bike test: Aluminium all-round road bikes

A composite image showing the Dolan Dolan RDX 12S 105 R7120, a red road bike, and the Kinesis R1, a turquoise road bike
Are you looking for a road bike that isn’t an overly expensive one-trick pony? Dan Joyce tests two from British brands: a Dolan RDX and a Kinesis R1

Road bikes that will take wider tyres, mudguards and a rack tend to be branded winter bikes or commuters. The implication is that proper road bikes are too thoroughbred and expensive for such tasks. Too expensive might be right; some cost £12,000!

But it’s odd to make a virtue out of a lack of versatility. What’s not to like about a road bike that will tackle everything from commuting and club runs through to sportives, lightweight touring and even some gravel rides? The fact that you don’t need a dentist’s salary to buy one is a bonus.

The bikes on test, both from British brands, cost around £1,500. Both have nice aluminium frames, full carbon forks, tubeless-ready wheels, hydraulic disc brakes and decent drivetrains – Shimano 105 and SRAM Apex.

The Dolan RDX 12S 105 R7120, a red road bike propped up in a country lane lined with high brick walls
First look: versatile, good value road bike with big clearances, 12-speed 105 and à la carte options
The Kinesis R1, a turquoise road bike propped up in a country lane
First look: gravel-influenced road bike with practical frame fittings and a 1× drivetrain

They weigh just under 10kg, which isn’t too heavy unless you’re a whippet-thin racer, and they both have a riding position that’s ‘endurance’ rather than ‘race’. For most purposes, that’s better.

The Dolan RDX is offered in four different builds, each of which can be fine tuned further using the configuration options on Dolan’s website. The R1 is Kinesis’s gravel-influenced road bike. Unlike the Dolan – and its own R2 stablemate – it has a 1× drivetrain.

Frame and fork

The test bikes are different sizes because, at 177cm tall (5ft 9 1/2in), I’m invariably borderline between M (54cm) and L (56cm).

I often pick L in road bikes because that results in a taller head tube, and thus less back strain, and more toe room. The longer reach can be fixed with a shorter stem – one of the options available with Dolan’s bike configurator.

The Kinesis comes as it comes. The medium looked like it would fit me better out of the box than the large. It did – albeit with toe overlap that the large would have avoided.

Both bikes are neatly TIG welded from butted aluminium tubes. The down tubes are biaxially ovalised – vertically at the head tube and laterally at the bottom bracket – to improve strength and stiffness where it’s needed.

Although the Dolan and Kinesis tube profiles differ, I didn’t notice any difference in stiffness. Cables and hoses are internally routed, which is both neat and annoying. The Dolan goes further (and fiddlier) in running the rear brake hose and derailleur cable through the chainstays.

A close-up of the Dolan's rear disc brake
A close-up of the Kinesis's front disc brake
There was little to choose between the two models’ disc brakes

In terms of geometry and frame clearances, the Dolan and Kinesis resemble gravel bikes as much as endurance road bikes. They have: a taller front end, which is more comfortable; a head angle of 72 degrees, which gives a bit more stabilising trail than 73-74 degrees; and room for bigger tyres.

The Kinesis will take 30mm tyres with mudguards (maybe 32mm) and 36mm without. The Dolan is listed as taking tyres up to 32mm with guards and 35mm without, but my vernier callipers say it will run 35mm with guards and 42mm without – and perhaps wider still.

Both bikes have fittings for mudguards and a rear rack. The Kinesis has mounts for two bottle cages, the Dolan three; there’s an extra set under the down tube. I prefer the 68mm threaded bottom bracket shell of the Kinesis to the Dolan’s press-fit but it’s not a deal breaker.

I’d fit a screw-together bottom bracket from (for example) Wheels Manufacturing when the Dolan’s bottom bracket needed replacing. This would keep the bearings aligned and (in theory) problem free.


Like Ribble, whose Endurance SL Disc Sport I tested recently, Dolan has an extensive component selection menu. I really like this, not so much because you can add accessories or upgrades – although that’s nice – but because you can match the specification to your riding preferences.

I chose 170mm cranks, an 11-36 cassette, a layback seatpost, a 38cm handlebar and an 80mm stem. As a result, it fitted me as well as my own bike. I also selected 32mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres (+£59.99), which have a folding rather than a wire bead and are wider than the default.

The tyres of both bikes plump up larger than the advertised 32mm as they’re fitted to fairly wide rims. The wheelsets are both tubeless ready although the tyres are not. You can upgrade to tubeless at point of purchase with the Dolan, but those Vittoria Corsa N.EXT TLR tubeless tyres (+£89.99) weren’t showing as available at the time of the test.

A close-up of the Kinesis's cassette
A close-up of the Dolan's cassette
Dolan (top) uses a Shimano 105 R7100 12-speed 11-36 cassette, the Kinesis (bottom) has a SRAM PG-1130 11-42t cassette

Like the majority of bikes with disc brakes these have thru-axles. This helps stop the rotors chirruping on the pads and also prevents accidental wheel ejection. The Dolan’s Mavic hubs have cartridge bearings, which are easier to live with; just replace when worn.

There are only 24 spokes apiece in the Dolan’s wheels. Even at my weight that strikes me as low, given that this bike might carry panniers. Since they’re straight-pull spokes, you can at least replace any broken ones quicker, with the disc rotor and cassette in situ. The Kinesis has 28 (J-bend) spokes front and rear, which I’m happier with.

The Dolan uses the new 12-speed version of Shimano 105. While I consider the extra sprocket over 11-speed irrelevant, 12-speed 105 does introduce a useful 11-36 cassette option. With this fitted, the bottom gear is about 10% lower than the Kinesis (26in versus 29in).

Shifting is as good as you’d expect from 105. I’ve never been a fan of 50-34 compact doubles, however; I usually wanted a chainring about halfway between these sizes. Kinesis has gone full-on gravel with the R1’s drivetrain, fitting 1× SRAM Apex.

You can have essentially the same bike with 2×10 Shimano Tiagra – the identically priced R2 – but I like 1× setups. While I’d prefer a slightly smaller chainring than the 44 fitted, the range of the 11-42 cassette itself is good.

There’s not a lot to choose between the Dolan’s 105 hydraulic discs and the Kinesis’s Apex ones. They’re both well modulated, with more stopping power relative to the lever effort than any rim brake I’ve tried. The bigger tyre footprints improve absolute stopping power as well.

The ride

Even with entry-level, innertube-only tyres, the plushness of wider, softer rubber is noticeable. It’s a large part of what makes both these bikes more comfortable than racers.

Having more rubber in contact with the tarmac also improves traction and therefore cornering and braking confidence. There isn’t the same pressure to stick to tarmac-only routes, either.

No gearing setup will suit everyone but I like the 1× Apex drivetrain of the Kinesis. It’s similar to what I use on my own road bike. The sequential shifts are intuitive and you can change down on climbs without backing off on pedalling pressure like you do when shifting a front derailleur.

A close-up of the Dolan's tyre
The Dolan comes with tubeless-compatible rims but not tyres
A close-up of the Kinesis's front fork showing the cable routing
The Kinesis features internal routing

A wider-range 1× cassette means the steps between gears are bigger but this bothers me far less than the cadence-spoiling 16-tooth jump of the Dolan’s compact double.

If you live anywhere lumpy or like to spin, you find yourself regularly shifting back and forth between the 50- and 34-tooth chainrings. So that big jump keeps on jarring. It’s not like an 40-24 Alpine double, where you can just stay in the big ring most of the time.

I enjoyed riding the Dolan more overall because the component choices available meant I could copy over the riding position from my own bike.

The Kinesis has a gravel-style flared drop bar that’s 44cm across the hoods and 50cm on the drops. This may help off-road control but I found it less comfortable. It’s also less aerodynamic on road, which is where a bike like this will spend most of its time.

The Kinesis was measurably slower on country lane loops due to the bike’s wider-armed, wind-blocking riding stance. There was more weight on my hands, too – a consequence of the bike’s shorter head tube and steeper seat angle, and the wider bar requiring more forward lean. Still, swapping in a different handlebar is neither difficult nor expensive.


Both of these bikes are practical, comfortable and versatile enough to perform a range of roles well.

The Dolan RDX is particularly good value. It’s nice to see Shimano 105 with hydraulic discs at this price, irrespective of it being 12-speed. The online configurator saves you money, since you don’t end up with components you’ll ditch, and also enables you to fine tune your fit. Win win.

The Kinesis R1 is a practical endurance road bike that’s slightly hampered by its gravel handlebar. Swap that out and it’s ready for any non-racing, real-world road ride.

Clearances are a bit tighter than the Dolan’s but still more generous than most road bikes’, and sufficient for comfortable tyres and mudguards. Don’t like 1× drivetrains? Get the R2.

Other options

Sonder Colibri Al Tiagra £1,099

Sonder Colibri Al Tiagra, a blue road bike against a white background

The cheapest Colibri has an aluminium frame, carbon fork and 2×10 Tiagra with mechanical discs. It takes 32mm tyres with mudguards.

Tifosi Rostra Tiagra £1,499

Tifosi Rostra Tiagra, a silver road bike against a white background

Aluminium frame and carbon fork again but with hydraulic Tiagra levers rather than mechanical. Takes 35mm or 38mm tyres (with/without guards).

First published in Cycle magazine, June/July 2024 issue. All information correct at time of publishing.

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Tech spec

Dolan RDX 12S 105 R7120

The Dolan's dimensions in millimetres and degrees

Price: £1,509.97 as tested (from £1,449.98, frameset £499.99).
Sizes: 49, 52, 54, 56 (tested), 58cm.
Weight: 9.95kg/21.9lb.
Frame & fork: Triple-butted 7005 aluminium frame with press-fit BB, 142×12mm axle and fittings for rear rack, mudguard, three bottles. Full carbon fork with tapered steerer, 100×12mm axle and mudguard fittings.
Wheels: 32-622 Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 2.0 tyres, Mavic All-road Disc wheels (tubeless compatible 622×22 aluminium rims, 24×2 spokes, Mavic Center Lock hubs).
Transmission: no pedals, 170mm 105-R7100 chainset, 50-34 chainrings, Shimano BB86 bottom bracket, Shimano M6100 chain, Shimano 105 R7100 12-speed 11-36 cassette. Shimano 105 R7120 levers and R7100 derailleurs. 24 ratios, 26-124in.
Brakes: Shimano 105 R7120 levers and callipers, 160mm/140mm f/r rotors.
Steering & seating: 380×31.8mm Deda Zero RHM bar, 80mm×8º Deda Zero 1 stem, Alpina 1 1/8-1 1/2 F35 headset. Selle Italia X3 Boost Flow saddle, 27.2×350mm Alpina setback seatpost.

Kinesis R1

The Kinesis dimensions in millimetres and degrees

Price: £1,680.
Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL.
Weight: 9.87kg/21.7lb.
Frame & fork: Double-butted 6061 aluminium frame, 68mm threaded BB, 142×12mm axle and fittings for rear rack, mudguard and two bottles. Full UD carbon fork with tapered steerer, 100×12mm axle and mudguard fittings.
Wheels: 32-622 Continental Grand Sport Race tyres, 622×19 Jalco TRX 415 tubeless-ready aluminium rims, 28×3 spokes, Novatec Center Lock alloy hubs.
Transmission: no pedals, 172.5mm SRAM Apex 1 chainset, 44t X-Sync chainring, SRAM BB GXP bottom bracket, SRAM PC1110 chain, SRAM PG-1130 11-42t cassette. SRAM Apex 1 HRD shifter and SRAM Apex 1 long-cage derailleur. 11 ratios, 29-109in Brakes: SRAM Apex 1 HRD levers, Apex 1 HYD callipers, 160mm rotors.
Steering & seating: 440×31.8mm Kinesis 6061 aluminium handlebar, 90mm×6º Kinesis 6061 aluminium stem, FSA sealed-bearing No. 42 integrated headset. Selle Italia X3 saddle, 27.2×350mm Kinesis 6061 aluminium seatpost.